Friday 9 March 2007

The Part of the Clergy in Evangelism

88. [...] The spiritual temperature of a congregation depends chiefly on the parish priest. [...] Generally speaking the Church cannot rise higher than the lives of its clergy. The parish priest must, also, himself exercise a converting ministry, charged as he is at his ordination "to seek for Christ's sheep that are dispersed abroad." [...]

90. Any forward move, therefore, in evangelism must begin with the clergy themselves, and with their coming together to gain a new liberation into the vision of the glory of God. Our first recommendation as a Commission is that the Bishops (if they have not already done so) should arrange for gatherings of their clergy for this purpose. [...]

91. [...] A converting ministry implies an attitude of expectancy which pervades and influences every department of an ordinary parochial ministry. Each individual is seen as one for whom Christ died, and Church services and parochial organizations as the appointed means of presenting Christ more clearly as Saviour, Lord and King. [...]

92. [...] Seeing that the vast majority of the population has no understanding of liturgical worship, there will be the need, on occasion of for short periods, of informal services to which non-worshippers can be invited, introduced to the art of worship, and instructed in it. But the regular services of the Church can also proclaim the evangel even to those unversed in their use, if they are made intelligible and given coherence around a theme. [...]

93. The decrying of Preaching, which became fashionable in some quarters during the present century, has constituted a fatal departure from the past tradition of the whole Church.
In the words of both Franciscan and Dominican writers, the surprising assertion is found that: "It is more profitable to hear God's word in preaching than to hear mass." Preaching was termed a sacrament by Bishop Nicholas Ridley [...].
Evangelistic sermons are not simply those which call for definite acceptance of Christ as Saviour and Lord, though such appeals might well be more frequent. Every sermon (whether instructional, ethical or homiletical) can be evangelistic in the sense that through it God challenges the hearer's will, and that it demands decision and action. For this, there is a crying need for a return to Bible preaching. Without it there can be no evangelistic ministry in the pulpit [...].

94. Visiting can be a real adventure in evangelism, if it is undertaken in a spirit of expectancy, and buttressed with prayer. but [sic] a house-going parson will not make a church-going people, if his visits mean nothing more than a friendly social call: nothing, certainly, that required the laying on of hands at ordination. [...] Furthermore, whenever a visit meets with a response that seems to promise the hope of a conversion, it should be followed up and prayed over until a decision is reached one way or the other.

95. [...] Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, the visiting of the sick and the bereaved, all provide close and lasting points of contact with people at moments when they are particularly susceptible to spiritual influence. [...]

96. [...] no candidate should be presented for Confirmation for whom the laying on of hands does not mean the receiving of the Holy Spirit's power in response to a real decision for Christ, and an honest intention to "serve Him in the fellowship of the Church." [...]

97. [...] We would emphasize that no preparation for marriage is adequate which does not appeal for decision for Christ, as the only sound foundation for married life.

(From Towards the Conversion of England: The Report of a Commission on Evangelism appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, pursuant to a Resolution of the Church Assembly passed at the Summer session, 1943, London: Press and Publications Board of the Church Assembly, 1945)

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